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Borscht So Good, You’ll Say Zamechatel’no!

Last month, I had the pleasure of traveling to St. Petersburg, Russia for a few days. I couldn’t tell you how to pronounce any of the streets I ran on, but I can tell you the city is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.
The real highlight of the trip, of course, was not the scenery, but the food. (Spoken like a true foodie with a fit booty, yes?) Particularly, I loved the soup. Everywhere I went in St. Petersburg, I was offered a Russian classic — borscht, or beet soup.
I’d eaten borscht before this trip, at various restaurants in the United States, and it was always disappointing. I love beets (and their health benefits!), but while roasted beets in a salad is a surefire winner, boiled beets in borscht always tasted like dirt to me. Naturally, when I was offered my first bowl of soup in Russia, I braced myself for a mouthful of soil.
I should have known better. Russia is the place for good beet soup. Really good beet soup. So good, I asked for seconds. So good, I asked my hosts for the recipe. So good, I’ve made it several times since returning home.
This soup is typically served up with a dollop of smetana, a cream very similar to what Americans know as sour cream, and chopped fresh herbs (dill was very common, as were chives). If you’d like a healthier swap, try Greek yogurt instead. If you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, your local health-food store will have vegan sour cream made of tofu, or try this plant-based sour cream recipe from Whole Foods using cashews.

Vegetarian Borscht Soup
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Russian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8 servings
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and cubed
  • 3 medium beets, peeled and cubed
  • 3 medium red potatoes, cubed
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ head cabbage, shredded
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 6 cups broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a large stock pot, heat olive oil on medium high heat.
  2. Add onions, carrot, beets and potatoes and cook 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Add tomatoes and lemon juice. Simmer on low 15 minutes.
  4. Add broth, water, bay leaves, salt and pepper to pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low. Simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes.
  5. Remove bay leaves and add shredded cabbage 10 minutes before serving.

Are you a believer in borscht? With winter fast approaching, I’ll be putting this soup recipe into my regular rotation! –Susan

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